Retailers Are Already Trying to Fend Off the Grinch

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retailers already trying to fend off the grinchIt's hard not to sound like the Grinch these days. But as we head into the holiday season, there's not too much cheer to spread around.

August 2011 saw a 47% increase in layoffs compared to last year, and there's more of that to come. Unemployment remains at a painfully high 9.1%, and the government report on hiring showed that there was no growth in employment in the month of August.

It's not just the employment scenario that's grim. The most recent U.S. census data show a poverty rate of 15.1%. (That's 46.2 million people in this country living at or below the poverty line.) And then there's the rising cost of living (more expensive fuel and food) making it harder for Americans -- already on a shoestring budget -- to try to get by.

Will Cash Registers Ring This Christmas?

With budgets stretched like never before, retailers are trying to find the formula to woo cash-strapped customers to the checkout line. Some of the biggest names in retail are donning their Santa suits to save the holidays -- for customers and themselves. Here's what they're doing:


Woo shoppers with exclusives: What would the holiday season be without toys? You can buy playthings just about anywhere, which is why Toys R Us's strategy for this holiday season is to sell exclusive toys only available at its stores.

Shop now, pay later: Wal-Mart (WMT) is bringing back the tried and tested layaway after five years of putting the program on ice. It plans to start offering the service in October. Customers can set aside toys or electronics they want to purchase by putting a 10% down payment and paying a small setup fee. Those short on cash have until Dec. 16 to pay the remaining balance and collect their purchases.

Start the holidays early: We haven't even decided what to be for Halloween, and already stores are pitching us holiday fare. Christmas decorations, lighting, cards, and merchandise have filled shelf space at Costco (COST) since the start of September. Other retail majors such as Home Depot (HD), Sears (SHLD), and J.C. Penney (JCP) also plan to get into the holiday spirit before September's end.

It may seem laughably early to create a winter wonderland display. However, a national survey showed that 37% of shoppers would do some Christmas shopping before Halloween. The extended holiday shopping period allows shoppers to better budget their holiday purchases and spread them out over time. Maybe this year the last-minute panic shoppers will get to stay home and sip eggnog instead.

Motley Fool contributor Joshua Gomes does not hold shares in any of the companies mentioned in the article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Costco Wholesale and Wal-Mart Stores. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Costco Wholesale, Wal-Mart Stores, and The Home Depot. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores.


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26 Comments

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June Shooter

Geez, it's that time of year again... Every year the holiday season seems to start earlier and earlier. I don't mind though -- I love decorations, Christmas cheer and the general spirit of the season. Though this year, I'm taking a lot of stress of my plate and doing my shopping online, decorations included! I found http://www.homeseasons.com, they offer free shipping on everything you buy, and it all comes directly to your doorstep - time and money saved!

October 20 2011 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mrbjaw

We do our Christmas shopping all year long. When we see things on sale that would make a good gift, we buy it and we found items on sale in the summer, most of the time, cost less then when they are "on sale" in November. Also, when you buy a little each month over the year, you can pay cash. If you do all your shopping later, more often, you will charge it, so what you save on the "Christmas Sales" will got to charge card interest.

September 26 2011 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome MSGT

As long as Obama is President I will not buy anything. Bah Humbug!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Obama is Bah Humbug

September 26 2011 at 8:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
madmax821

As i read the comments I also will NOT be spending any money for Christmas. Going to keep the bills paid a little in my pocket and spend time with friends and family. That's really what it about anyway.

September 26 2011 at 8:47 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
toosmart4u

They should bring back the "Truth in Advertising". We must start to think for ourselves, not like the GOP puppets they want us to be. We must start buying American and that would put many Americans back to work. We should support America, not China and foreign countries. We must THINK AMERICAN AT ALL TIMES.

September 26 2011 at 8:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to toosmart4u's comment
mrbjaw

It's not only the GOP, It's the cool-aid drinking Dems too.

September 26 2011 at 9:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Luann

Maybe it's time we all got back to the true meaning of Christmas instead of worrying about what to buy each other. There is something to be said for an old fashioned Chirstmas, homemade gifts and finding the true spirit of Christmas instead of what retailers would have us do.

September 26 2011 at 8:19 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
tutularu

As we never use credit cards anymore, (AAHH..Peace) we will not be buying any gifts this year unless we pay cash. And since cash is scarce...it iwll be a very meager xmas. Note to retailers: no matter how good a deal you offer, no money = no shopping.

September 26 2011 at 8:03 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
pkrdonnyb

We need a REAL rebirth of freedom in the USA. A return to true personal liberty as was originally intended. Just imagine if suddenly there was no such thing as an illegal substance. The countless hidden black market dollars to be taxed and invested freely. The open and vibrant commerce and natural job creation in all fields of endeavor. The FDA would realize it's true value in education and enforcement of truth in labeling. Of course the BIG dope dealers would hate it when their multimillions $$$ in dope lost 99% of it's value!
Most of our lawmakers should be tried for treason instead of being paid for breaking their oath to uphold the constitution. They were supposed to protect our personal rights but instead they've given in to special interests that want to impose their agenda on everyone. Starting with alcohol prohibition they've lined their pockets at the expense of us everyday folks that just wanna live and let live. We're brainwashed to the point of thinking it's "normal".

September 25 2011 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
muenft

Nothing good willhappen to this economy as long as obama and his leftist socialist policies are in place. Income redistribution has never worked. The self proclaimed socialists on MSNBC appeal to the ignorant with stories of "economic justice" The leftists must be defeated if we are ever to see prosperity.

September 25 2011 at 9:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to muenft's comment
darinw40@mail.com

and if the Right Wingers take over we can just let them make all the purchases from the retailers as no one else will have any money to purchase anything...including living in a home as they will lower the minimum wage to 1.50 /hr to benefit the rich....fine no wages no purchases and the right wingers can kiss our arses...

September 25 2011 at 9:43 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
kv37

I actually like all holiday stuff put out at the same time. That way you can pre-plan months ahead instead of spur of the moment purchase.

September 25 2011 at 4:36 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply